Owner of Crisp Kitchen + Bar, Jamie Hess went from working in sales for dot com to opening bars around the capital. He was introduced to the hospitality industry through a friend who owned a night club. A true self-starter, Hess quickly found success in the industry and has gone from opening dive bars to his newest concept, a Southern comfort food restaurant serving great cocktails.
When talking to Hess about how he came up with the idea for his restaurant, his response was simple, yet showed his entrepreneurial spirit: “I talked to the nearby neighbors and businesses and simply tried to figure out what was missing in the neighborhood.” He filled a void in the neighborhood with his simple but delicious fried chicken-centric menu.
While brainstorming with his chef, Hess realized that no one was doing hot chicken in DC. He then decided that he would begin to serve hot chicken, and they “designed the whole menu around that.” Hess champions the simplicity of food. Instead of serving extravagant brunches, he is inspired by waffle houses and prefers to serve simply amazing eggs, pancakes, and waffles.
Prior to his first restaurant endeavor at Crisp Kitchen + Bar, Hess had been immersed in the bar scene. His first place was called Blue Banana Bar, a little sports bar that Hess thinks was too ahead of its time. Next, Hess opened up a dive bar called Ivy and Coney. Although that bar still exists, Hess decided to “get out of it and do something a little different.” He had his eye on the location of his new restaurant for a couple of years before it was offered to him last fall.
Hess bought the place on October 1 and had it running within two months. He cherishes his neighborhood and loves how each restaurant has developed its own niche, and they all work together instead of competing. Hess also loves DC’s food scene but he predicts that it is “going to hit a wall because there’s too much.” He discussed how restaurants are experiencing staffing issues because there’s “too many restaurants for how many people live in the city.” Wisely, Hess is being cautious about opening too many restaurants too quickly.
Hess did mention that he was already starting to get the itch of wanting to open a new place. He likes to experiment with different ideas and hopes that his new project will be “a completely different concept.” He wishes to be part of many restaurants, whether as the primary owner or simply as an investor. Hess concluded his interview with a great piece of advise for people in the hospitality industry: “be professional. It’s a business. Show up on time, be happy, leave your issues at the door when you come in.”
We ended the interview by asking Jamie some fun questions…
What’s your favorite city that you have visited?
What’s your favorite Southern state?
What’s your favorite food or ingredient?
My favorite cuisine is probably Sushi… my favorite ingredient is salt. I definitely have a big salt craving.
What’s your last meal on Earth?
Either the Filet Mignon and Wasabi Mashed Potatoes at the Continental in Philadelphia or an Orange crepe anywhere in St. Tropez or Nice.
What are your favorite dining spots in DC?
- Upstairs at Daikaya
- Eat the Rich for oysters
- Sticky Rice for sushi
- Lupo Verde for amazing Italian food
- Pop’s Sea Bar also for oysters.